|Sure, the Church is politically neutral and doesn’t endorse candidates. But does that mean the prophets have said nothing about who and what to vote for?
Guest post by Jelaire Richardson and Nathan Richardson
Imagine if someone asked you what kind of music you like to listen to or purchase, and which kind you avoid. You tell her your favorite genres and list a few of your favorite artists and songs. You also tell her which genres and singers you don’t like. When she asks you why you choose the way you do, you tell her, “Well, a big part is because of what the living prophets have taught about music and media.”
Your friend gets a disapproving look and says, “The Church maintains strict neutrality on music. It does not endorse or sanction individual bands, or record labels, or genres.”
You reply, “Well yeah, I’m not saying they’ve compiled a list of individual songs or artists that are approved or disapproved. But they’ve definitely given some specific advice on what to seek out, and warnings on what to watch out for.”
“I thought they just gave the general advice that the members should ‘choose artists they believe will most nearly carry out their ideas of good music.’ My ideas of good music are based on aesthetic qualities. How much it appeals to me. Concepts I learned in my music theory class. Nifty album art. Those are my criteria, since we haven’t really been given anything more specific than that.”
“But we have been.”
“Well, For the Strength of Youth says, ‘Do not listen to music that encourages immorality or glorifies violence through its lyrics, beat, or intensity. Do not listen to music that uses vulgar or offensive language or promotes evil practices.’ So I’m definitely not going to listen to someone like Marilyn Manson.”
“The Church does not micro-manage the members’ decisions on music. It’s wrong of you to give people the impression that the Church has official positions on individual musicians. It’s going to make people think Mormons are brainwashed.”
“I wasn’t saying anything like that. But we do have more than just vague directions. We have guidelines to help us choose wisely, and in some cases those guidelines are fairly specific.”
“I don’t think the Brethren would have advice one way or the other on whether I listened to, say, Marilyn Manson. In fact, I bet I could find general authority quotes that were in favor of his music. Besides, you’re never going to find musicians who don’t swear. They all do it. And any who don’t are probably so sappy or amateurish that they’d be terrible to listen to.”
* * *
Of course, in this story, the friend is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. While the Church might not have a detailed, specific position on individual people or groups, that doesn’t mean they’ve given no counsel on how to choose music. A wise, faithful Latter-day Saint will search out the prophets’ counsel and try to make his own criteria match the Brethren’s.